Creating a Native Oasis

The Sutley Sanctuary is a Certified Wildlife Habitat, resting on 8 acres of many carefully planned phases of hardscape and landscape design and installation, all wrapped by the Benson Creek. While living in Alaska, the Sutleys worked with us remotely on the master plans, while their son and daughter-in-law met with us on the site for design questions and turnkey installation.

Since its inception, the garden has grown to more than 7,500 plants, over 90 species, more than 120 native trees, 6,000 native plug prairie, and a ¼ acre seeded prairie.  First, many trees were planted to define the border of the property and help screen the property line from neighboring homes and roads. Outdoor living was also expanded with a patio proportional to the large house, an outdoor kitchen and seat wall, the distinctive waterfall cascading out of a dry stack stone wall, and landscaping lighting.  Several dry stack Kentucky limestone walls used for retaining and sitting create functional spaces and a flat lawn area, while the dry stack stone column bases and fireplace provide structure.

Removal of existing invasive plants such as garlic mustard, winter creeper, poison hemlock, and Japanese honeysuckle was a first step in the process to aid in restoring native habitat and protecting the property and watershed. Invasive species overtake native species, destroy or replace native food sources, and decrease the soil’s capacity to store water. Primarily native plants were used on the site, though some non-native, non-invasive plants were used for pops of color, textural interest and bloom.  The property and prairies sing year-round with bees, butterflies, birds, turkey, deer and more. One phase was specifically designed to attract turkey with blueberries, oaks, passion vine, trumpet honeysuckle, virginia creeper, dogwoods, beech, cherry, redbud, and crossvine – and worked almost immediately.

In the latest phase, the driveway was not very functional with a long drive to the garage and matched by a long walkway to the front porch. A redesign addressed accessibility and functionality along with the addition of expansive native garden beds in the front of the home.  The circle driveway addition designed and installed to match the existing driveway with a 1’ exposed aggregate strip, along with the new paver sidewalk flush with the porch, allows for easy, ADA accessible client and guest entry. The new sidewalk was laid to match the level of the porch to eliminate steps, and the entire area is covered in a diverse palette of plants.  Grasses and sedges provide soft texture and movement, while the blooms, foliage and berries of many trees, shrubs and perennials provide additional year-round interest and structure.  The large expanse of plant beds creates a border garden to the woods, softens the house, and cuts down on mowing.  Most importantly, wildlife is provided with food (via native plants), shelter, water and places to raise their young, all requirements for becoming a Certified Wildlife Habitat.

All phases of this project came together to create a native oasis, always full of nature to observe. The Sutley’s vision for wildlife and natives, matched with professional planning installation has created an extremely diverse lot, and one that is a model for our community and environmental stewardship.